Women today have made many strides in their struggle for rights, autonomy and recognition. As a mental health professional with experience in treating clinical depression and related issues, it is my firm belief that cognizance about women’s mental health is needed but this issue is not being taken as seriously as it should be. The ratio of depression is steadily increasing; suicides are more prevalent than ever among women around the world. Clinical depression can be difficult for the average person to comprehend because of how well hidden its symptoms can be.
Everyone experiences grief in their life, from loss of loved ones, financial stress, or a myriad of other reasons. The depressed individual may be written off as someone simply going through what the rest of us deal with as a natural part of our lives. This kind of thinking is mistaken, however, as depression is a different beast entirely. It manifests as unbearable hopelessness, numbness, feeling of being trapped in a pit of despair so dark and deep that one eventually accepts this bleak atmosphere as their new reality. It is not something that someone can simply “get over” with time. It stays with you for years and even decades, if left untreated.
Depression worms its way into your daily life and changes the way you think, the way you relate to those around you, throws your life out of balance affecting your work, relationships, and goals. Depression not only brings about severe changes in our mental state but also affects our physical appearance. Weight gain to an unhealthy degree is common, as are aches and pains. Even our immune system can be weakened, rendering us even more vulnerable and compounding the depression symptoms. Our knowledge about depression is constantly evolving and it is important to see where we still have gaps in our methods to deal with this issue. Women’s mental health is one such area that has historically been neglected.
Pregnancy and childbirth are monumental and life changing ordeals that women go through, so it is especially important to analyze the psychological effects that these experiences cause. The experiences cover the entire spectrum of emotions, some positive and some negative, such as postpartum depression. Among the most traumatic and difficult to deal within this category are miscarriages. A miscarriage is defined as the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week, often times as a result of abnormal development of the baby. The psychological fallout from this trauma can be devastating, especially, if professional help is not taken. It is estimated that about 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and many of these women struggle with clinical depression and long periods of grief. This severely impacts a woman’s ability to care for herself and others in a healthy way, something that is aggravated, if the woman has other children she is providing for as their development and upbringing can be negatively impacted. Despite the pregnancy ending early, most women will still feel a deep bond with their unborn baby. After a miscarriage, this is usually expressed with feelings of sadness, loss, guilt and self-blame, even if the woman knows she was not responsible for the tragedy. Seeking help for these symptoms immediately is highly recommended to prevent further misfortune.
As discussed above, differentiating between depression and ordinary grief can be a tricky task. To the outside observer, someone suffering from clinical depression may seem to be just sad and taking a long time to grieve, but this couldn’t be further from truth! Every woman is different and has their own subjective experiences, there is no time limit set in stone for how long one is supposed to grieve her miscarriage. Therefore, trying to identify depression merely based on the length of time a woman is experiencing grief, is not always accurate. A more accurate analysis would include how said grief is affecting (and impairing) a woman’s daily life, such as relationships, work, and hobbies. Despite the intense feelings of grief, a woman may feel like gravitating more towards isolation, keeping her from getting out of bed in the morning as easily as she could before the trauma, but overtime she should feel herself settling back into daily routine as well as feel like she can enjoy her hobbies again, find humor in life, and feel motivated to work and so on. However, if the grief persists to such a degree that she is incapable of settling back into some kind of normalcy, then it is possible that the culprit is none other than clinical depression.
How to Manage?
Fortunately, depression has been studied deeply and its effects can be managed and even cured. However, it is important to recognize and treat it quickly, as time will only worsen the symptoms. If one feels that they are exhibiting symptoms of depression, it is imperative to act fast and seek help. It is important to remember that you are not alone when dealing with these traumas. If you have trusted friends, family and other loved ones, try to open up to them and explain your feelings. This can be a vital first step in moving past depression. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing with family or friends, then go to a medical professional such as a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. Although, it may feel hopeless and unbearable, there are ways of overcoming depression and thousands of people do so after they seek help. If simply talking it out with a professional is not working, then medication such as antidepressants can also be a life-saver.
Antidepressants help treat chemical imbalances in the brain for those, whose problem with depression is rooted on a biological level and is out of their control. Another effective solution is psychotherapy. It can help one cope with their difficult circumstances in a healthy manner and to overcome irrational thought processes (like guilt and self-blame) without relying on medicines. In addition to all these methods for treatment, it is important to remember that simple things like a healthy diet, regular work-outs, and a full sleep schedule can also be a tremendous asset in regulating the symptoms of depression. These are the body’s natural ways of repairing chemical imbalances and should never be underestimated in how effective they can be.
Miscarriages are a horrific tragedy that can make it seem like the world around a woman is crashing down on her but it is vital to maintain hope that one can overcome this obstacle and move on with her life. Men and women both have a responsibility to understand the devastation of this trauma and provide assistance to those suffering from it. It is wrong to expect women of being perfectly capable in dealing with everything that life throws at them. No matter what and for how long, but for a mother it was her child. So, if you have such a woman in your circle, accept her emotions and validate how she feels and the fears she may have. Be a good listener and keep yourself aware of any changes in her demeanor. If you see she is not coping well then help and encourage her to seek help. Above all, be empathetic and remind her that she is not alone in her suffering. HH
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